New data backs TAVI in more patients

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New data has highlighted the effectiveness of Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) as leading Australian cardiologists call for funded patient access to be widened

Studies released by Medtronic and Edwards Lifesciences demonstrated the superiority of TAVI over open heart surgery in younger patients with aortic stenosis (AS).

One-in-eight senior Australians is diagnosed with AS, with up to 50 per cent dying within two years of diagnosis if left untreated.

TAVI is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that repairs rather than replaces an old and damaged valve. It scraps the need for open heart surgery for the majority of patients.

Currently, in Australia, only patients considered to be at high or moderate risk are eligible for the TAVI procedure under Medicare. It is not covered by private health insurance. 

“Open heart surgery provides excellent results but patients should be able to decide on a less invasive option if they can,” said Professor Dion Stub, a surgeon at the Alfred and Cabrini Hospitals in Victoria.

Professor Stub said TAVI can be carried out with no general anaesthetic, patients are often awake during the entire procedure, which takes less than an hour. They are usually discharged within two-to-three days.

Current Australian guidelines mean TAVI is only an option for high-risk patients and those over 80. Cardiologists are calling on the federal government to change national guidelines so that TAVI can be offered to all patients.

Sydney Heart Centre’s Professor Martin Ng from Macquarie University Hospital said the procedure had revolutionised the treatment of AS.

“Elderly patients have a right to the best quality of life. It would be great to see TAVI made more easily accessible to our heart patients with a national reimbursement strategy,” said Professor Ng.